Wiccan Festivals

There are eight main festivals, four using the Solar Calendar and four Celtic. As with the practice of some other religions, festivals start at sunset and go through to sunset the next day. Solar festivals depend on the rotation of the earth for exact dates but in any case Wicca is flexible about dates and ceremonies. Although this article concerns the northern hemisphere, the table below gives the southern solar variant.
Take the first date in each coupling. Where the evening and night is involved, it is between them.

Name Other faiths Type Northern Southern
Imbolc Candlemass Celtic February 1st/ 2nd  
Spring Equinox   Solar March 20th/ 21st September 22nd/ 23rd
Beltane May Eve Celtic May 30th/ April 1st  
Midsummer Longest Day Solar June 20th/ 21st December 21st/ 22nd
Lammas/ Lughnasadh Loaf Mass Celtic July 31st/ August 1st  
Autumn Equinox   Solar September 22nd/ 23rd March 20th/ 21st
Samhain All Hallows Eve/ Halloween Celtic October 31st/ November 1st  
Yule Christmas (period) Solar December 21st/ 22nd June 20th/ 21st

 Imbolc  is when new life appears and the days start to get longer. The goddess is back into the land. Altars should use snowdrops and candles. White is the colour. This is the time to plan and make first steps towards realising projects. Many describe Samhain as the start of the Wiccan year but some see the first annual festival as the one of new beginnings. Magic is to cleanse and bring about the new.
 Spring Equinox  has more fertility still. Again it is the time for newness and beginnings, like sowing seeds. So there is seed cake on the altar, catkins, flowers that appear like daffodils and painted green eggs. The colour is green and the magic is about material beginnings.
 Beltane  is a time of fertility for sure. Sexual energy comes to the fore. May Poles come out and the Green Man/ Jack in the Green appears using his leaves as a disguise for freedom of actions. Altars should use hawthorn and blossoms, ribbons and crowns of flowers. This is a time of the Goddess. Colours are green, white and pink. Magic is unashamedly sexual and about both enjoyment and reproduction.
 Summer Solstice/ Litha  is the time for the God. The Solar King produces his energy in the service of the Goddess. Men and women do magic for material good fortune. Altars can be adorned with oak leaves and roses. The colours are yellow, red and green. Magic is male and in this world of material activity.
 Lammas  means Loaf Mass which is a Saxon name for the time of baking bread again. So altars should have sickles, wheat, corn dollies and fresh bread on them. The colour is orange. The Celtic name is Lughnasadh where Lugh the God of Light played games to honour his mother in Law, possibly the Goddess. This time involves sacrifice and letting go: accepting change, reckoning with death ahead and an afterlife. In practical terms one should forgive and allow spiritual things (if not material) to begin again. The magic is also about letting go. It is a good time to complete a divorce. The Corn King dies materially but becomes spiritual, so the magic is also about the spiritual realm rather than the material. However, spiritual unions are important, including marriage of soul partners, creating priests and priestesses.
 Autumn Equinox  is also a spiritual time, an inner world time. Some spiritual projects begun at Lammas start to show fruit at this equinox. The inner world is of the mind. We start to think. Altars should contain antlers, apples, fallen leaves and pine cones. The Goddess goes to the underworld. Candles can be floated down a stream as if to wave goodbye to the sun that was. Magical powers can be developed, however, as these are developed in the mind.
 Samhain  then, because much is past and seen going and gone, is a festival of the dead. Mirrors can be blackened and placed on altars, along with twigs, spirals of apples, crystal balls and cauldrons. People honour the dead and the past. Ancestors are important and should centre in celebrations. Colours are unsurprisingly brown and black. Magic is divination.
 Yule  is the Winter Solstice. It is a risky, dangerous time (people get ill: some die of the cold and poverty and even neglect, and non-human creatures also have a difficult time or are in long sleep). Yet in that risk people should go against it by eating well and being joyous, putting light and colour into where there seems to be so little. The reason for such displays of hope is the simple knowledge that the world has turned and the nights will grow a little shorter and the days a little longer each day. No wonder then that there are many colours: black but white and gold and red and green. Magic is about celebrating, about the health of chidren and early hopes of conceiving.


Source: Cowley, V. (2001), Way of Wicca, Thorsons, 38-50.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful